mon 16/05/2022

CD: Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

CD: Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Tenth studio album from Seattle ex-grungists reveals hidden depths

After 23 years, Pearl Jam have become a bit of an institution

This is studio album number 10 for the seasoned Seattle-ites, and on a first listening you might feel inclined to flip it into the bin marked "solid but unexciting". Give it a bit of time to breathe though and it starts to reveal its strengths.

Among these are the lead guitar playing of Mike McCready, something of an unsung hero in the annals of axemanship but a chap eminently capable of blowing the bloody doors off in a variety of styles. For instance in "Mind Your Manners", one of the disc's standouts, he unleashes a blistering riff-and-chord barrage in a bring-back-the-Dead-Kennedys style, firing off stuttery double-time runs and throaty sliding noises.

He shines again in "Sirens" (which, like "Mind Your Manners", he wrote with Eddie Vedder). It's an anthemic, euphoric piece where Vedder emotes his way through a bittersweet lyric in a faintly existential vein. Into the midst of this crashes an enormous solo from McCready like a bulldozer coming through the wall of your living room.

Though the 'Jam are not renowned for flying off on avant-garde post-rock tangents, they ring some nifty changes through these dozen tracks (though producer Brendan O'Brien could have done them a favour by allowing a little more air and daylight into the mixes). In "Let the Records Play" they manage to mix a little big-band swing with burly hard rock, while "Swallowed Whole" seems to launch itself from the speakers in huge bounding leaps.

The disc concludes in more reflective mode, winding down through the country-ish ballad of "Sleeping By Myself", the slow drift of "Yellow Moon" and the fiddle-and-harmonies closer, "Future Days". If I didn't have a copy already, I might even buy one.

Overleaf: watch clip of Pearl Jam playing "Sirens"

Guitarist Mike McCready is capable of blowing the bloody doors off in a variety of styles

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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